How Do You Winterize Your Garden Plot?

“Gardening imparts an organic perspective on the passage of time.” –William Cowper

Fall is in full swing and winter is coming around the corner. The vegetable garden has stopped producing and the frost has killed off the remaining flowers. Time to think about how your garden is going to rest for a few months.

First off, how do you store your garden supplies? I stack my tomato cages together in groups of 5 or 6 of like sizes. Then I put them in front of my wood shed. Ideally, they would be stored out of the weather but I don’t have extra space to spare. My fence isn’t a permanent one. So with help from my boys, we pull up the stakes and roll the fencing up . I put it next to my cages – keeping all supplies together.

Secondly, is to clean the garden plot. Some people will pull up all the plants & weeds and put them in a compost bin. I don’t do this. Instead, I pull up the vegetable plants and leave them on the ground. We use the garden plot to burn our leaves that have fallen on that side of the yard. Burning the garden plot is beneficial for it too. Any diseases from that growing season would be killed. The ash of organic matter is added back into the soil as potash. This aids in balancing the pH value of the soil, helps with flowering & fruit growth, and is a pest deterrent for slugs and snails.

Thirdly, is to til the garden. This will mix in the added nutrients from the leaves and ash. It will loosen any remaining roots from the plants and weeds. Also, tilling will add more pathways in the soil where more air & water can penetrate and be stored.

The fourth step to winterizing the garden is to add mulch, compost, manure, or ground cover. Basically a layer of something to prevent additional weeds from taking over. This year, we have the opportunity to have a way to get some horse manure from a friend’s farm. This manure contains a great source of nutrients for the soil to absorb as it breaks down over the winter months.

A time for rest isn’t a new practice. God started it in the very beginning. The Bible tells us he created for six days and then took a rest. It was not because he was tired. It was to show us to have faith that he will take care of things while you rest. Just because you aren’t working the topside of the garden, it doesn’t mean things aren’t happening in the soil underneath. So be obedient and rest your garden and yourself for a season.

 

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Do You Save Seeds to Repeat Success?

“Flowers and fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.” –Marion Zimmer Bradley

Saving seeds from plants for future plantings has been around for generations. However, thanks to technology advancements, not all seeds from produce will be successful in developing into a new plant. The plant varieties with a better chance of reproducing itself are known as open-pollinated, heirloom, and organic. These varieties rely on nature to pollinate them. Hybrid or GMO (genetically modified organism) plants are made to be hard to reproduce themselves. The actual process of seed saving can be tedious and requires strict guidelines in order to not get a new plant that has cross pollinated with another one during the previous season in the garden. For this reason, I do not try to save seeds from my vegetables. If you would like to try seed savings, I would advise you to do more research on the internet.

Despite the fact of seed saving of vegetables is difficult to do, saving those from flowers is much easier. Once the flower is brown & dead, pluck it from its stem. If the flower petals are not super dry, lay them on a plate to allow them to continue to dry. Now that the petals are brittle, carefully pull them apart to find the flower seed pod or seeds on the inside. Put the seeds in a seal able bag or container and don’t forget to label them. I have saved my dead zinnia and marigold flowers this year. I didn’t bother separating the two either. I want to be surprised to see the color and variety mixture next year in the garden.

Seed saving for a repeat success is unknown til the next growing season. Seeds contain nutrients for that particular plant to grow and bloom. God also saves seeds and plants them in his own time. The Holy Spirit acts like the gardener ensuring that those seeds of faith show themselves at the right time. No one person knows whether the saved seeds will survive to bloom. But God knows that if the seeds are not sown at the right time, saving them won’t matter. Let him grow your seeds and let others see him in your success.

Flowers Bring Life to the Garden as Vegetable Dwindle

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful: they are sunshine, food, and medicine to the soul.” –Luther Burbank

Leaves are falling to the ground as the wind loosens them from the tree branches. The garden is in a state of transition. Vegetable plants that don’t contain produce are being pulled up. Why continue to feed plant leaves with no reward of vegetables? Saves those ground nutrients for the next garden. The weeds have changed to yellow-brown coloring. However, the temperature changes have fooled some tomato plants to making new tomatoes on top of the dead looking plants. Silly plants it is fall not spring! Although, the flowers still continue to bloom.

Having a variety of flowers in the vegetable garden make transition times enjoyable, beautiful, and helpful to the garden. Marigolds are early bloomers in the spring, which will continue to do so until a hard frost kills them. I have found the dwarf varieties bloom more consistently. Marigolds are also beneficial to deter pests with their pungent odor. Zinnias flowers bloom in the heat of the summer all the way to a hard frost. They attract beneficial pollinators like wasp and butterflies. This was the first year planting a row of zinnias and I have seen a ton of butterflies. I definitely will plant more of them next year. Cosmos flowers are late summer bloomers as they grow rather tall for flowers, up to 3-6 feet! These flowers attract beneficial insects to the garden (to actually feed on other pest). Of course, flowers any where bring beauty to the space.

Flowers bring life to the garden as well as the gardener. God is the ultimate gardener and we are his flowers. God said he will supply you what you need. He wants us to be happy, even when seasons change. Flowers bring delight to the soul, a smile to the face, and often a memory to the heart & mind. Garden flowers have purpose throughout their life span. You have a purpose too. Have faith and follow his path. Pause from your journey every once in a while and enjoy these beauties he provides.

 

 

Plants Change to Adapt to the Weather

“Unlike your favorite painting or sentimental vase, a landscape is alive and constantly changing.” –Author Unknown

As it has become autumn on the calendar and in the weather, the garden has changed in production and appearance. The cool days and even cooler nights has made it difficult for the plants to absorb enough nutrients to stay healthy. Add wet weather or excessive dew that doesn’t dry up quickly cause of lack of sunshine, mold and other disease can settle into the plants.

Tomato plants are heat loving plants. Mine has stopped putting out new fruit and the leaves have turned brown and dropped off. The same has happened with the purple hull peas. My pole beans and peppers are confused though. A lot of the pole bean vine has turned brown and dropped leaves. But then we had a week of hot weather again. Guess what – new flowers appeared and even new sprouts came up from the ground. Did you know that pole beans can produce right up to the frost date? The pepper plants reacted similarly, new flowers and veggies growing.

To extend your vegetable garden, one could plant crops suited for cooler climates. Some of those would include broccoli, greens, cabbage, radishes, beets, pumpkins, and numerous others. I personally do not plant for a fall garden. I can’t have the roughage (that most of those vegetables have) due to my Crohn’s Disease. So as the fall season begins so does the ending of my vegetable garden for the year.

The Bible verse says in Ecclesiastes 3:1, ‘To everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.’ Now that the garden isn’t needing a lot of attention, look around and see where you are needed next. Just because the visible growing season may be coming to an end, doesn’t mean life isn’t still growing. Rely on God through all your seasons.

Bountiful Harvest to be Savored Now and Preserved for Later

“It is like seeds put in the soil – the more one sows, the greater the harvest.” –Orison Swett Marden

I have been very pleased with my vegetable garden this year. Even though it was started late (due to a cool, wet spring) and had several challenges (insect pest, fungal disease, and drought like conditions) to deal with. This is the first year I can say that everything in my garden I started from seeds. Each year, after reviewing the previous growing season’s records, I challenge myself to try new designs, new varieties, and to try to get a bigger harvest.

In the spring, I filled my seed trays with several varieties of tomatoes, sweet peppers, and spicy peppers. The other plant seeds were direct sow, once the ground was ready for them. I ended up with 50 tomato plants in the garden!! Varieties included Rutger, Beefsteak, Amish Paste, Druzba, Brandywine, and Granny Cantrell’s German Pink tomatoes. All produced tomatoes except for 2 plants (which one the stem broke early on and had to be transplanted again). The sweet pepper plants all produced and varieties included Carolina Wonder Sweet Bell, Jimmy Nardello’s Italian Sweet, Lipstick Sweet, and Gypsy Sweet. The spicy peppers were slow to produce, however, finally did with the late summer heat. Those varieties included Orozco Carrot Chile, Jalapeno, and Ancho Poblano. The pole beans and purple hull pink-eyed peas also produced a lot of vegetables. Oh, I can’t forget about the numerous flowers interspersed in the garden. The marigolds, zinnas, and wildflowers were a big help attracting insects to the garden.

My harvest days from the garden began about a month ago. Along with watering two to three times a week (since we hadn’t gotten rain in a while), I picked vegetables twice a week as they ripened. With all the abundance of vegetables, I have cooked with some, frozen some, made pizza sauce, veggie pasta sauce, salsa, and even canned some up for later cooking and enjoying.

As harvest relates to God, I leave you with a few scriptures:

Sow fields and plant vineyards, & gather a fruitful harvest. Psalm 107:37

Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:9

If you plant goodness, you will harvest faithful love. Plow your ground, and you will harvest with the Lord. He will make goodness fall on you like rain. Hosea 10:12

 

Don’t Forget to Add Growth when you Add Plants to your Design

“Where you have a plot of land, however small, plant a garden. Staying close to the soil is good for the soul.” –Spencer W. Kimball

Having a garden takes time and careful planning, in order for it to be successful. You should do some research on the plants you want to plant. Or at the very least, read the planting instructions on the plant label. Make sure the plot of land will be big enough for your amount of plants. Or that you have enough containers, preferably one for each plant.

I like making diagrams for my garden. I even color coded the places where flowers were going this year. I design the garden, first off, to utilize crop rotation (not planting the same kind of plants in the same area 2 years in a row). Secondly, I take advantage of companion planting. Making sure the plants that are beside each other benefit each other whether by insect attraction or repellent, ground or shade coverage, and soil nutrient needs. Thirdly, the diagram shows me exactly where the plants are to be planted in the garden. Therefore, preventing me from accidentally pulling up good plants instead of weeds in the beginning growth of the garden.

Each year, I record the plant growths and any adjustments needed to make for the next year. The space I need for walkways and around the plants always changes. Next year, I will increase the amount of flowers I need to fill in the gaps from this year. I spaced the peppers out fairly well this time. They had enough room to grow but not too much for a ton of weeds to sprout. However, I forgot to add maturity growth for the pole beans and tomatoes. On paper, the spacing of the pole bean trellises  seemed to look fine. But now the beans are full-grown, the vines have reached across from one trellis to another making a tunnel of bean plants instead of rows. Likewise about the tomatoes. The 50 plants are in neatly spaced rows on paper and in the garden, with one exception Рvery small (if any) walkways between. I forgot to add the diameter of the tomato cages at the top and some tomato plants branch out quite a bit. So I have not only a bean jungle, but a tomato jungle too.

You can make diagrams or maps for your life too. Just be aware that the paths you plan may not always be the ones God wants you to go down. He doesn’t forget to leave room for growth. The more you seek him or research his design, the more room he will supply for your flowers and fruit to blossom and grow.

 

Why I Love My Dirt Stained Garden Notebook

“A gardener’s best tool is the knowledge from previous seasons. And it can be recorded in a $2 notebook.” –Charles Lamb

Every gardener should have records on their garden. It shows that you care about what you planted. Some purchase day planners to keep track of the garden. You can even print off pages from websites to make your own. The ultimate goal for a garden notebook is the same – a reference or guide-book to aid in the success of your garden to harvest time and into the next season.

My notebook is old. It has seen my gardening adventures grow over the years. It has dirt on its cover and several of its pages. It goes out into the garden with me numerous times a growing season. It is where I can record what is going right and what I need to change for the next year. It is where I have the plants listed that are in my garden. My specific notebook has pocket sleeves dividing it into sections. In those pockets is where I keep my gardening receipts, a diagram of the garden, a detailed list of the current plants, crop rotation guide, and companion plants guide. In the sections of the notebooks is where I have records of the pH values of the soil, what treatments have been made to the soil, when I have started seeds, the date time progression of the seedlings to transplanting into the garden, and of course the progress (success or fail) of the garden plants.

Therefore, my notebook serves me well. I can look in it and plan my next year’s garden based upon this year’s results. For example, I tried growing cucumbers for several years with little success, so then I stopped trying. This year I had about a dozen squash and zucchini plants. I only got 1 of each as the vegetables. The plants were healthy, plenty of male flowers but very few veggies produced. I am not going to try to grow them next year. This was the third year growing them and the production decreased each year.

A book of knowledge, a guide-book, and a reference book. Isn’t it nice to have these! God gave us one for our lives as well – it is called the Bible. You can read how past events changed the future results. Concordances and devotionals lend a hand in companion planting and making sure the soil is properly fed. You just have to ask for guidance and be willing to tend to the heart as well.